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A Sensational Solheim Cup

The Solheim Cup was a riveting spectacle of pure golf.

The bi-annual competition between Europe and the USA produced some of the best competitive golf of the year, and the players put on a show for the ages.

Perhaps the most poignant aspect of this event is that none of the players get paid to play in it. They play to represent their country or continent and they play for the sheer love of competition and the pride that comes with representing your country. It is perhaps these reasons that make the Olympics or the World Cup in soccer or the mens version of the Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup, so special.

The first two days of better ball (aka four-ball) and foursomes (alternate shot), was a see-saw of emotions and superb golf. After the first day the US team lead by a score of 4 ½ to 3 ½ which did not augur well for the underdog European team because no team has ever won the Cup after trailing after the first day’s play.

Saturday was a day filled with remarkable shots and nail-biting finishes. In the morning four-ball matches, the European team were inspired by a run-away 5 and 4 victory by Helen Alfredsson and LET’s, (Ladies European Tour) Tania Elosegui. The 27 year old Elosegui is from Spain and 2009 is her first year on the LET. The elegant Spaniard has had a very accomplished Amateur career and has all the tools to become a really good player.

By mid-afternoon, the US had not only lost their lead but with only two afternoon matches remaining on the course, the Euros’ had an overall 8-6 lead. At this time two young American players really showed their best form. Playing against the long-hitting duo of Alfredsson and Europe’s best player, Suzann Peterssen; fiery US players, Morgan Pressel and Kristy McPherson played flawless alternate shot golf. McPherson and Pressel shot 5 under par in the most diabolical of all golf formats, and won their match 2 up on the final hole.

There were heroes on both sides but perhaps nobody was as spectacular as Michelle Wie.

The 19 year old phenom whose star has dimmed in the last two years, finally made her entrance into the world stage that so many have expected for so long.

Wie played absolutely inspired golf in the Friday and Saturday matches going an undefeated 2-0-1 before dispatching indomitable Helen Alfredsson in a thrilling singles match to finish the event with a 3-0-1 record. It will be remembered as one of the great rookie performances in the history of the Solheim Cup.

Up until now, there has been a reticence on behalf of the LPGA players to embrace Wie (largely of Wie’s doing). Too many times, Wie has seemed to be going through the motions while playing tournaments, and has played without passion or success.

That all changed this weekend at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois. The players clearly warmed to Wie and the galleries thronged to her group more than any other. Wie played with emotion but more importantly she played brilliantly. Only time will tell, whether this serves as the catalyst which will propel her into the superstardom that so many have predicted for her, but Michelle Wie must certainly feel, that she now belongs.

The timing of the Wie’s resurgence and the electric atmosphere of the Solheim Cup, could not come at a better time for the LPGA Tour. Struggling to replace sponsors that the Tour has lost in the last year and in the process of finding a new Commissioner (the Tour fired Carolyn Bivens last month after her disastrous tenure at the helm) this may be the ‘dawn of a brand new day.’

“These girls can play!”

And play, they did.

There were the established stars, like Paula Creamer, the ageless Julie Inkster and Christie Kerr for the Americans and Europe’s, Peterssen, Laura Davies (playing in her record-11th Solheim Cup) and Alfredsson but there were a lot of unheralded players who captured the spotlight as well.

You would be hard pressed to find a better golf swing than that of Welsh player Becky  Brewerton who has played predominately in Europe. Twenty-one year old Swede, Anna Nordqvist, who won the LPGA Championship earlier this year, is most definitely one young star. American, Brittany Lincicome (you have to love a player whose nickname is “Bam”), who won the 2009 Kraft-Nabisco Championship, and who hits the ball a mile, is another.

The 2009 Solheim Cup was the most competitive of the 11 contests to date giving us drama, fun and a lot of incredible golf. The outcome was in doubt until the last minutes of the afternoon, with the Europeans appearing to have the edge twice, during the singles matches (the ebb and flow of match-play can be the best of golf theater), but in the end the Americans were victorious.

The final result was Team USA 16 to Team Europe 12, but the real winner here was, golf.